Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The sun reached its peak hours before and the light that now spills over the city is gold and fleeting. The walls of the many downtown buildings glow in a muted shade of orange and the sky above has turned a shade of pale blue that only holds the promise of darkness to come. There are no clouds, just endless pale blue. The street is wide and made of multiple lanes of traffic going in both directions. The city is a mixture of ancient and new, old edifices and architecture combined with new street lamps and signs. The street itself is covered with a fresh black layer of asphalt, but the sidewalks on the side are old cobblestone, worn to a shiny finish from years of use. Modern buses wait patiently in traffic beside buildings hundreds of years old. The street is exact and completely straight, breaking from its course only when it meets perpendicularly with another wide road at an intersection. Each lane is full of cars. They wait bumper to bumper, occasionally letting out a desperate honk that does nothing to move the cars ahead of them along. Dark exhaust streams from the back of the city buses. They wait as still as the cars and nearly hidden inside them are scores of passengers that stare out from the tinted windows with a mixture of helplessness and resigned desperation, unable to do anything to change their fate. An occasional motorcycle weaves its way through the congestion, finding the small pockets of space within the mess of metal and exhaust and beeping exasperation of horns. It is not just crowded streets, the sidewalks on either side of the traffic are full of pedestrians. Many of them are tourists, clinging to their maps and cameras and staring open-mouthed at the architecture. There are large baroque buildings that take up entire blocks and between them are grand cathedrals on every other corner. The tourists walk in small groups, adorned with hats and water bottles. Locals weave through them like motorcycles, finding the spaces between the gawking groups of picture-happy tourists. One of the oldest buildings in the downtown area is an old church with a long, narrow steeple made of metal. The building itself is constructed from bricks and rises five stories high. On the body of the building, but close to the steeple, are open square windows. Inside the windows, within the church, are the silhouettes of old people. The church building sways softly in the wind, moving slightly to the right and left, then forwards and backwards.